It’s (Not) All Pine, Dudes

Let’s get this straight. We at Indolent Indio don’t hate the environment. We hate hate. Blind hate, anyway. And SM Supermalls has been getting a lot of that lately.

It’s not difficult to see why.

SM is so easy to hate

Not only are they an enormous corporation, they’re owned by a guy who invites ire simply by being both Chinese and the richest man in the Philippines. This combination of facelessness and figurehead makes it easy for people to lash out blindly at SM’s power while “[attaching] a face to the Baguio trees issue.”


Also applicable: "South Korea's Human Cloning Breakthrough"

The Sy family, this fake-ass TIME cover notwithstanding, is publicity shy and therefore easy to condemn and Photoshop.

Did we mention they're Chinese?

People working for SM have likewise been demonized, with their security guards being painted as Martial Law-era goons and their construction workers as environmental terrorists.

This, despite the fact that SM guards have standing and very specific orders not to touch any protesters. The most the malls have done is turn up their sound system so the rest of the 3.5 million shoppers in their 43 malls nationwide could do so in relative peace.

While many shoppers clapped as the protesters chanted, others were displeased.

“Excuse me, I’m shopping,” a woman shouted.

Focus, ficus

Much like the trees themselves, valid but irrelevant issues are being dug up.

Take, for example, SM’s labor practices: inducing fatigue by forcing their salesladies to be on their feet for their entire shift, and inducing unattractiveness by standardizing makeup regardless of skin tone.

This has been happening for years, and not only in SM. Where are the Carlos Celdrans for those ladies with their bunions and unflattering eyeshadow palettes?

Even if true, this has nothing to do with the trees, except that by boycotting the malls, those ladies will not have to stand around all day in horrible makeup. Hooray!

Actually, Celdran does make that point. Good for him.

Look at who is making the most money here and how does it trickle down? What’s the quality of jobs that they create AND support? Ethics? Practices? Policies? Carbon footprint? I think they’ll be measured and come wanting. And let’s not pinpoint here. The Ayalas, Gokongweis, Tans, Angs, and ALL others should be taken to task. This should be the beginning of accountability for ALL who take part in the PH economy. In the public and private sphere.

This is a valid point, of course. One can also argue that the worst quality job is the one where you don’t have one at all. But that has nothing to do with trees and everything with malling as the center of Filipino commerce and consciousness.

Counterpoints or, you know, basic information

Much has also been said about the Department of the Environment and Natural Resources, which issued the permits for SM to cut and ball the trees. Mainly that they have been paid off or value big business at the expense of nature.

This might be true, and is always the argument against all the other agencies that support dudes with fat wallets, e.g. pro-Corona, but we — and by that we mean you and I — don’t know if SM paid off DENR for sure.

General disapproval of the permits being given is in no way evidence of corruption. Saying that Environment Secretary Ramon Paje was bribed is unfair to him and hundreds of other people in the DENR who might actually know what they are doing.

Assuming that they’re all corrupt and incompetent because you disagree with the decision is a lazy argument and is disrespectful of Forestry, which is an actual field of study that our foresters spend their careers in.

Even balling the trees at night — SM’s supposed attempt to keep the people of Baguio in the dark — was more for the benefit of the trees than for anyone else. Did you know that? We didn’t, until we decided to find out. Surprise!

The fact is that night time earth-balling was a directive from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

According to DENR undersecretary Demetrio Ignacio, trees have greater chances of survival when it is re-balled in the cooler night environment.

He said that doing this during the dry, hot summer day, would mean greater possibility of death for the re-balled trees.

SM isn’t cutting down or balling 182 pine trees either. Ninety-seven adult pine trees will be transplanted and the rest are either saplings, which are easier to transplant, or alnus (alder) trees which, we have been told, is an invasive species.

Will some of those trees die? They might, but SM has already promised to plant 50,000 saplings, regardless of how many of the original 182 survive.

That makes your “mass murderer” argument invalid. In the next five years, SM is planting a total of 50,000 saplings, which is around 274 saplings for every tree “massacred.”

It's also about ANGRY RED TEXT.

Where the trees currently are, SM’s creating a stronger concrete structure to prevent erosion, and under that is a reservoir that can supposedly hold 6.9 million liters of water, or as much water as around 4,000 trees can soak up. So Ondoy-level floods look like a Metro Manila problem for now.

The floodwater, instead of going into Baguio City can instead be used for fire trucks, watering local parks, and other stuff for the water-starved City of Pines1.

All of these, really, are promises. We don’t know whether SM will follow through or not, but protesters and trolls alike are banking on the belief that all 182 trees will die. Pretty ironic that it’s SM who’s hoping the trees will live.

“Every act of creation is, first of all, an act of destruction,” said Pablo Picasso, and, to a certain extent, Secretary Paje. And this is true. Unless you are living in a tree house and reading this on your banana-leaf tablet, you’re in on it too.

Angry people

We’re inundating you with information about how Baguio is far from inundation itself. So much useless and destructive rage has been leveled at SM precisely because ragefaces are best worn with ignorance, if not reductionist arguments.

SM Baguio’s woes went viral, and while it’s heartwarming to see that thousands of Filipinos suddenly care about the environment, it’s also evidence that going viral is the opposite of discourse.

Think of the children! And by that we mean KONY 2012.

Commentary on slacktivism aside, should you stop opposing SM Baguio’s development? Not at all, but make sure your rage has roots, because your opinion will hold much more water if informed. This issue raises questions about development, about the kind of culture that we have as a people, about local autonomy and economies. These are questions that deserve more thought than clicking on the share button and typing a trite comment that others have already made.

Don’t dismiss everything as corporate spin. It’s nice to think that this is as simple as protecting Mother Nature Magick from Big Bad Biznezzes, but spin goes both ways.

It is, for example, unfair to declare that you’re showing people “the photo of SM cutting trees in the dead of night,” without expounding on the photo, whether to fully say “OMFG SM SO BAD” or taking the informed route and acknowledging that it was a DENR directive. It’s unfair to say “Fuck SM!” and distribute angry links to angrier pieces while pimping some high-class hotel built on reclaimed land. It’s also unfair to dig up five-year-old development plans, i.e. SM Tagaytay, and post them without context. “Holy Shit” indeed, Mr. Celdran.

I guess we can safely say that most haters can’t see the forest2 for the trees.


1 As an aside, WWF’s Lorie Tan says Baguio gets the most rainwater in a year but also has the least access to it. One solution to Baguio’s lack of water is a water catchment system. Which is, ta-dah!, part of SM’s planned infrastructure.

2 SM said they complied with the requirements set by Administrative Order 2000-21, which includes studies, consultations with the community, and “an Initial Environmental Examination (IEE) which shall be made as basis for the issuance of an ECC.” Assuming the DENR knows what it is doing–but probably not as well as the social media hive mind–then the issuance of the permit must mean SM’s proposal passed their guidelines.

NOTE: In case you’re curious, we aren’t being paid nor are we part of any international conspiracy. If you’ve been here long enough, you know we don’t play that way.


  1. Going the extra mile to educate yourself always has it’s rewards (and reacting without really knowing the real deal just makes you… a troll).

    I appreciate that SM proposed to:

    1) transplant 97 adult pine trees
    2) ball trees at night (which is apparently beneficial)
    3) plant 50,000 saplings for more trees in the future
    4) construct a concrete structure that “prevents” erosion
    5) complete with a reservoir that can help distribute water to the rest of the city

    Nice. However:

    I’m not sure I like the idea of Baguio having a huge shopping mall. I like it the way it is. That space will never be the same again. I mean, if Baguio really needs a catch water system, can’t they just build the reservoir WITHOUT the mall? Yes, i have doubts about commercialization. Also, yeah, we aren’t sure if all the transplanted/balled trees will survive. Trees take time to grow. Years. It’s nice of them to think about tree planting, but a lost tree also represents lots of lost time. Some of those trees could even be older than most of us.

    At the end of the day, these are just plans. If the government really wants to work with SM to save more trees and build a reservoir, at most, they should see to it that these plans are implemented well. Personally, i am not for it.

  2. @Corin: I would rather not have a mall in Baguio City either. But it is there. Crass commercialization or not, I think SM knows it does affect the environment and is taking steps to at least mitigate the damage.

    We’re not advocating cutting or balling trees on a whim. If you have to–and SM says they do–then the least you can do is minimize harm.

    People actually can, and should, put up water catchment systems in their homes.

  3. @Ryan: Thank you for reading. We’re not saying you should change your mind and suddenly support the tree balling.

    If you’re opposed to it, then that is also good. Opposition in itself is not bad. Opposition without thought, though, is.


    How about your thoughts on this condo complex they are building in Tagaytay? Just wondering.

  5. Baguio has always been a Filipino’s summer destination – with or without SM. Since decades ago people would endure the long drive to see Baguio AS IT IS – enjoy the weather, the parks, the ukay ukays, the locals, the LAID BACK ENVIRONMENT. Why the need for a huge mall. Isn’t the one currently existing not enough?

  6. I would have had no problems with them balling the trees if they first planted and cared for the 50,000 trees until they are self sufficient. Promising is faaaaar different from doing.

  7. Hi, Mr. Celdran

    We don’t hate you. We’re not haters. What we hate is hate.

    Helping spread ‘shopped pictures of the Sy family and inciting hatred of them does not help anyone especially in an already heated situation.

    Do we agree with condos being built in Tagaytay? No, we do not. And Baguio City might be better off without a mall. Failing that, though, the least developers can do is minimize the impact.*

    Again, we’re not saying you should support SM. Opposing them is your right. Maligning people is not.

    *While we are on that, how do you feel about coastal reclamation? You love Sofitel even though it stands on reclaimed land that most probably affected whatever wildlife is still in Manila Bay.

    Where do we draw the line? When is development okay?

  8. Hi!

    More information regarding this matter is beneficial to all, so thank you.

    Your assumption that SM is being hated for simply being an enormous corporation is the same as you assuming that people against the expansion of SM Baguio have little information to back their opinion. And one is not better than the other.

    To put your mind a little at ease, I can honestly say that I have gathered as much info on this subject as I can before deciding to go against SM. SM’s plan is great but we have to take into account the time it takes to replace the trees they’re going to remove on their property. Some of the trees they want to earth-ball are older than my parents. It’s not that easy to grow trees. Anyway, to each his own.

  9. Interesting attempt to turn tables with your reclamation angle, man. Not biting.

    I’ve made it clear, I don’t want to close SM. I just want them to be more accountable and less hypocritical (greenwashing). That’s all. And demanding accountability from big business is not only necessary for checks and balances but it is also MY right to say so as it is their RIGHT to build a mall.

    Development should draw the line when enough is enough. And judging by all the slapdash condo and construction developments going on with SM (MOST especially that visually offensive WIND in Tagaytay, I PERSONALLY believe enough is enough.

    Some restraint is in order with SM (And please let’s separate the maligning of SM from the SY family – I never mentioned any of them by name). People in Baguio are clearly protesting this SM and SM defying the TEPO is simply corporate arrogance. Period.

  10. Yeah, this is just right. Protesters/oppositions against SM Baguio just poped-up! They never protested when they built SM in Baguio City. Where are you(oppositions) when thousands of houses where built in all the hills of Baguio; in Quirino Hill, Aurora Hill, Leonila Hill, Quezon Hill and all other places full of trees. Millions of trees were killed by then and you were not protesting. Only few trees will be transplanted this time but will be replaced by thousands of saplings… @ corin arenas – I agree, I also don’t like the idea of Baguio having a huge shopping mall. I like it the way it is too. That space will never be the same again. And tourist doesn’t really go to Baguio city for SM.

  11. Good points. I am against SM’s plans as well, but a little bit more information never hurt anybody.

    As for Mr. Celdran– please, get a hold of yourself. Just because someone disagrees with you does not mean that they hate you.

  12. Many people were against it. Especially me as I used to live in Baguio for a while and saw that monstrosity overwhelm the entire Session Road. But there was no internet then when it opened.

  13. hi! thanks for is article:) but my opinions echo Miss Nica’s above ^ i have read much information about the issue before deciding on going against the mall expansion. i hope that you understand that it is not just blind hate. as much as SM has attempted to make green efforts, i still would really rather not have a bigger mall in Baguio. it is not in line with what Baguio stands for and how I want to remember it and how i want my children to remember it. those trees are symbolic of a worldview that we shouldn’t let go so easily. hopefully they would listen…

  14. Mr. Celdran,

    We got that fake Time cover from a post on your timeline, but you are right, you never mentioned them by name. Unfortunately, others have not shown the same restraint as illustrated by the existence of that fake Time cover.

    Should people call for more accountability from SM? Yes, definitely. And the same goes for all businesses. Should they have ignored the TEPO? Fuck, no.

    Again, the call is for informed opposition. I am sure you did your research, and the same goes for Nica who commented in this thread. And that is good.

    I am not sure the same can be said about the hundreds (thousands?) of your followers/friends. Sure, the message to oppose the balling of trees spread, but how many bothered to read beyond the blurb or the headline?

    We’re just posting counterpoints to get people talking about it instead of just clicking and hating.

    We’re really not that different, Mr. Celdran. We support the same causes and hold the same views, pretty much.

  15. While it matters greatly that people should be informed about what they are protesting about, I think they wouldn’t be protesting if they weren’t. It is true that it is not only the lives of trees at stake here, that the roots of the protest are wide and deep, but these old trees make a great symbol not only for the future well-being of our environment (since we all agree trees are essential in filtering air, preventing erosion, and so on and so forth), these trees also symbolize our history, our relationship with the land, and how this land gives us its wealth. That is why we must protect it from usurpers.
    I can see why you want to play devil’s advocate on the matter, but it is beyond my comprehension why you would want to defend a corporation- a family- that seeks only to profit from its adopted people, but doesn’t care to give back. Henry Sy is not only the wealthiest Filipino, his worth is double that of plenty of very powerful people in the world. Yet his profits are being used only to build more buildings and malls, without any regard to the environment (Baguio), without any respect to the land’s wealth and idyll (Tagaytay, Pico de Loro), without any consideration as to how we live and how we travel, building only the barest boxes for minimum expense, maximum profit, putting them in places without thinking of consequences to obstruct or aggravate traffic (every mall/ savemore in place) WHILE skirting around labor laws to deprive hard-working people of proper benefits and tenure, depriving them the opportunity to advance in life, multiplying the great mass of under-educated and poorly compensated people to what end?

  16. to put it simply, masmayaman na nga siya (Henry Sy net worth $7B) kay Oprah (net worth $2.7B) pero ano ang binabalik niya sa tao? He pays his tens of thousands of employees peanuts, he makes suckers of us who continue to buy from his business, tapos and pangit pa rin ng mga malls at buildings niya, nagdadagdag pa siya ng traffic (5-towers with thousands of units at the corner of Reposo! how many towers with thousands of units in Katipunan! Tagaytay!) and to top it all of, nakakasira pa siya ng ambiance ng well-loved tourist cities by choking the scene in Tagaytay with ugliness and killing 182-year old trees in Baguio! like carlos celdran, i also lived in baguio and when i was there, there was no SM. there was nothing to obstruct the green from my eyes. and now?

  17. Hi, Nica

    I am glad that you did your research.

    We are not saying that SM is being hated for “simply being an enormous corporation” or that everybody protesting is uninformed. We’re saying, though, that it’s easy to hate and rely on reductionist arguments.

    I’m glad you didn’t just jump on the bandwagon.

  18. Hi, Patricia E

    We’re not defending SM as a corporation. They can hire lawyers and PR firms to do that.

    The issues you raised are valid and should be looked into by the government. Should SM be paying its employees more? Sure, who would oppose better wages?

    Should the Sys do more for the Philippines considering they are so rich? They ought to.

    But these are irrelevant to the discussion of whether it is cutting 182 pine trees (it is not), why they are doing it, and what they plan to do to make up for cutting the trees.

  19. In response to comment above, there were mass protests about SM being built long ago. I was in college then. If I remember correctly, it pushed back the construction by half a year. (But this may not be accurate). Just because it wasn’t on TV or wasn’t on FB doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. 🙂

    Despite the fact that we personally witnessed the trees falling, SM denies cutting them down.

    Patricia E’s comments say it better that I ever could. You must also consider the following facts about SM’s green proposal.

    > LEEDS has confirmed that they have never received a proposal, much less approved it re: SM’s “green” expansion plan.
    >Similarly, the US Green Building Council denied ever partnering with SM for the expansion.
    >Only a percentage (not gonna state one cause I don’t remember it off-hand) of earth balled trees survive.

    Still, enjoyed the article. Much better than the accusatory, and sometimes self-serving blog posts on the issue.

  20. “We’re really not that different, Mr. Celdran. We support the same causes and hold the same views, pretty much.”

    Really? This isn’t the first snarky post about me on this blog. Not that I care. I’m flattered that you even bother.

    And um… Who’s ‘we’? Seriously, at least many of us here commenting use our own names when we “hate” or “jump on a bandwagon” as you might call it.

    Seriously, it’s really easy just to make a post hating on someone when you hide behind some anonymous name like onetamad. Takes real guts to put a real name behind your words.

  21. Mr. Celdran,

    I said causes, not actions.

    Would anything change if the people behind this site reveal their real names? Would people pay more attention? Would the arguments made be more or less valid?

    And, really, I’m sure you’ve seen the comments other anonymous “haters” have made about you elsewhere on the Internet. There’s nothing easy about staying on point and not resorting to name calling.

    Or, for that matter, acknowledging when someone is right. In the post about the Damaso episode, we congratulated you on your courage, and said you should not go to jail for expressing your opinions on the RH Bill.

    That is a view that we still hold.

    We also said we thought it was wrong, and why we thought that. We did not curse at you, we did not say “Fuck you, so and so.” We showed you a lot more respect than you did the ministers gathered at that church, at any rate.

    We also did that with this post. We pointed out your valid argument against the excesses of big business and fully agree with you on that.

    By also pointing out that you said “Fuck you, SM” and posted a manipulated picture of the Sys, does that mean we are hating on you?

    Surely, there are easier ways to do that than bothering to write a whole piece that mentions you, not because you’re a bad person, but because you’re one of the most outspoken about it?

    Will you look at that? We’re not even talking about the trees anymore.

    Have a nice day.

  22. Thank you for reading, Rose.

    I am sure you know more about this issue than we do since you’re actually in Baguio.

    I do remember, but vaguely, that there were protests against construction of the SM mall there.

    We will look into the LEED certification and the supposed partnership (or absence of) with the US Green Building Council.

  23. I just could not bear what this hemibrainacal is saying. He hates hate but he sounds more than a growling angry lion or tiger.
    You don’t want to accept our principles but you have to R E S P E C T it. If you are in our shoes, i bet you would not ridicule nor spit fire on the people of Baguio who are fighting for something that you yourself could not see, feel and understand which only those who were born, raised and love Baguio can. I know you are neither!
    So many trees had been cut in the past and we got only a handful left specifically in the city centre of our beloved city. That amount we have to take care before it’s too late. Earthballing can never be successful and even a child of a young age would know that. Basically, when the tree is uprooted, even as a whole, it would not be as good/sturdy as it was when re-planted, the more when it’s roots are cut. Earthballing is just a sugary term for cutting down the tree.
    Yes, some may not be well informed and just jump in to join the protests or comment-thread and that is because they can sense the danger. The same thing on your side, just because they shop in SM malls make them pity SM! Put down your ignorance and open your eyes to reality of how SM is monopolising the businesses in our country…that is, if you are a true blooded Filipino!
    Personally, I stongly disgree with SM’s expansion project which will cover up the beauty left in our already small city centre!
    Note: You are not supposed to judge anyone unless you have walked in their shoes!

  24. Nelia of Baguio City,

    I am not attacking your values. I am not saying you shouldn’t oppose SM.

    I’m not even pretending to know how you feel.

    If you know for a fact that “earthballing can never be successful and even a child of a young age would know that,” then go ahead and oppose the expansion.

    Having a contrary opinion does not automatically make me ignorant and I actually do not spend a lot of time in malls.

  25. Nelia of Baguio City is right, OneTamad. Not being against SM makes you a, hmm, a false-blooded Filipino. Shame on you!

    Never mind that SM Malls has provided jobs and livelihood to thousands, possibly millions, of Filipinos, from the manufacturers at the start of their supply chain all the way to their customer facing staff. Or that their malls prompt spending and consumption, keeping the cash flowing. All of which have contributed to this country’s economy, and in turn–even without any explicit charity attempts by Henry Sy–have improved the well-being of this country and the Filipino citizens far more than any of these mouthbreathing commenters have ever done.

    If you’re a true-blooded Filipino, you will totally ignore all these economic, real-world considerations because, y’know, those poor pinetrees.

    Oh by the way, when you visit Baguio, do buy one of their souvenir trinkets. I’m sure the death of whatever tree the wood is from is dignified by being carved into a giant penis ashtray.

    Anyway, OneTamad. Shame on you. You should be like Carlos Celdran. He’s totally a true-blooded Filipino: idealistic, passionate, reduces issues to black-and-white perspectives, whines like a bitch when criticised, dresses up in period clothing.

  26. I think there’s also another environmental issue here. Yes, SM is planting the 276 saplings for every tree they cut down, but the thing is, a single act on a certain area can have a ripple effect on the ecology of Baguio as a whole. True, they may plant those trees? But at what cost? It will take years for them to grow it.

    It angers me that even DENR Sec. Paje said that things like sacrificing the environment in favor of urban development is a worthwhile act. I beg to differ as one always has to ask the question of “what is development?”

    I also found the note regarding SM consulting the community. I’m intrigued as to what extent they consulted? An example of SM’s supposed consultation happened in Brgy. Loyola Heights in Quezon City, where they built a 35-storey condominium, supposedly after consulting the community and thus was granted a permit, despite QC Law of prohibiting that number of floors in a designated residential area. The other issue happened again in the same barangay where they are building a 42-storey condominium (SM Blue), supposedly after “due consultation” with the community. Surprisingly, they were granted the permit in a day, and the whole community (all subdivisions, Miriam College, Ateneo de Manila University, etc.) reacted violently.

    Makes you wonder as to what really is the concept of development, and whether the parking lot, with its proposed “development plan” is enough to be called a development at the cost of the trees being cut.

    In the context of Baguio, as the years go by, the number of trees dwindle down. It’s sad that even its own residents aren’t given a voice in this issue. Yes, development.

  27. Thank you Matinik for showing up thus proving that this thread has become stupid. Whatever y’all. I’m outta here. Talk amongst yourselves.

  28. Valid points, Pagusad. I’ve read about the SM Blue condo and about how the community was not consulted before permits were given.

    Maybe that’s something to consider. What constitutes “public consultation”?

    The Local Government Code requires it for most projects, but when is it actual consultation and not just substantial compliance? This is a policy question that deserves serious thought. Should there be guidelines on how public consultation is done? Do we have those guidelines now?

    Is there an actual national development plan that we can use as a guide? I know the national land use act hasn’t been passed yet.

    Thank you for contributing to the discussion. Let’s keep talking. 🙂

  29. Mr. Celdran:

    I wrote you a pretty long-ass reply and you turn tail at the sight of a troll who wasn’t even talking to you?

    That’s pretty disappointing.

  30. It’s good to read all the informative comments on this post, i really appreciate critical exchange of facts and opinions.

    This post, however, did not change my opinion on the issue. I still disagree with SM building that mall and transplanting/balling trees. Indeed, I also thought they were greenwashing so they could have a reason to build that mall and have DENRs support.

    I understand the author’s point in making the public understand that people must do ample research and keep themselves updated before they jump into any opinion band wagon, which easily goes viral these days thanks to social media and cellphones. After all, it is our responsibility as citizens to know these issues because we are part of this country, its entire environment, whether we like it or not. From what i’ve observed, t’s so easy to just join a cause (especially when you’re just pressured by peers) so you can make yourself feel important and involved. I believe Juantamad here is just asking the public to be more mindful of what they say. To be honest though, there were some points in your article which sounded like some press release trying to make SM’s name look cleaner.

    I am quite put off by how sir carlos celdran reacted. I guess i expected him to be more into the actual issue rather than point the topic towards you writing a hate article, and then mentioning himself (you’ve apparently mentioned him before in some posts). But yes, it is his right (like all of use) to oppose SM just as it is his right to be pissed at the author. Also, I do not appreciate how somebody posted that you are not a true blooded filipino. I believe nobody has the right to say that their kapwa filipino, especially when we all live in the same country. It’s totally uncalled for.

    Anyway, why am I posting this? I just want to say let’s keep the focus on the development, the issue of the trees, and how SM goes about acquiring those permits. I really think there should be a law to regulate these high rise properties (but there is. no high rise building should be built in katipunan, but they did anyway, that just one example).

    At the end of the day, I believe we all want what’s best for the rest of the country, not just one corporation.

  31. I like your points here. very enlightening. Come to think of it, some people are too quick to judge others. Like at first, the photo they spread on the net, where pine trees are being uprooted in the night, and people thought immediately how cruel SM is to do that in the evening so no one can see, is like a total boo boo. Hey! It is for the trees’ own good! Haven’t they thought of that?! People are so paranoid and righteous that sometimes that they forget their logic. Instead of protesting here and there, why don’t we do our part in saving the environment. Let’s all plant trees (SM, the evil in the eyes of the people, is doing that) and don’t throw trash anywhere. Let’s help SM achieve their vision, they are hopeful on this project, that trees will live and the expansion will help in the betterment of Baguio, let’s also be hopeful and optimistic. We can’t achieve anything by being pessimistic.

  32. People of Baguio did made protests against SM around early 2000 and delayed its construction for a few good months (it didn’t go viral then). People then agreed because of its advantages. A few years later, people of Baguio did discern that most of the problems of the city is caused by SM and regrets allowing it to be built. Aesthetically, SM Baguio is hideous. Traffic wise… it contributes to it highly. Lifestyle…. forever changed. Local businesses… killed.

    I think that SM should know how to hold back on its projects especially when the local clientele is already saying NO right? They should be sensitive enough not to leave a bad impression on their “supposed” customers. And if they are promising progress and development in the right way, people will have no problem at all.

    The SM in Baguio as it is is more than enough, we do not want more of it.
    Its that simple…

  33. I’m born and raised in Baguio, when I heard about SM cutting trees for parking lot expansion (late last year or early this year, i think?), I thought of boycotting it too, until I saw the video about their development, I thought It was believable so I went back shopping at SM 🙂 I have read other blogs regarding this issue, and Im glad that you also find time to research enough info before you made your judgement.

    Eto na lang, Matagal ng nawala yung tunay na ganda ng Baguio, hindi naman SM ang nanira neto eh, tayo rin (at ang lalo pang lumalaking population ng Baguio na dapat sana 25,000 lang). Look around you. Kesa mag-click like, share, tweet o comment tayo (slacktism), mas mabuting gumawa tayo, kahit maliliit na bagay lang, na makakatulong sa environment.


  34. Very valid points indeed @onetamad, this is not the first post I’ve read trying to see the whole picture, much as I was enraged by the whole ordeal

  35. Very valid points indeed @onetamad, this is not the first post I’ve read trying to see the whole picture, much as I was enraged by the whole 182 trees ordeal,I have always tried to see every story from every angle. I too have seen that video you posted and read all the “promises” SM made, but isn’t it tantamount to promising a girl that you will be her boyfriend after you rape her? or promising to bring someone to the hospital after you stab them?

    A few comments:
    qoute: “That makes your “mass murderer” argument invalid. In the next five years, SM is planting a total of 50,000 saplings, which is around 274 saplings for every tree “massacred.”
    ****I do not believe that SM’s promise to replant 274 saplings for very tree they earth ball INVALIDATES the mass murder argument. When you kill a person, saying I’m sorry 274 times does not cancel out that fact that you killed someone. They will still be dead…

    Also— If by “SLACKTIVISM” you are referring to those who choose to express their outrage and spread awareness via social media, then you obviously do not understand how powerful a tool this can be. Hey, how do you think I found a link to this post in the first place? To say that proliferating information via social media is in any way slacking-off is an unfair statement.

    On the night the trees began to be earth-balled, we were there! We cried out, we saw them falling (there is video of this floating around too) we begged the workers to stop. Regardless of the fact that it was a DENR directive or not, at that moment, that wasn’t important, so how can you say: ” Pretty ironic that it’s SM who’s hoping the trees will live.” when countless studies and experts say that a transplanted tree has a very low survival rate? When that is the very root of our cause, ( granted that it is not the only issue), When we wouldn’t have to HOPE that they live if they would just leave them alone in the first place?

    Anyway, I think a lot of people reacted negatively because despite your claims of not siding with SM and hating hate, you definitely make us, the people fighting against this travesty, well informed or not, look like fools….

    Is that really a cure against hate or are you just fanning the flame?

  36. Baguio Girl,

    Thank you for reading. I’m sorry for not having replied earlier, I was away from the Internet for a while.

    To address some of the points you raised:

    “I too have seen that video you posted and read all the “promises” SM made, but isn’t it tantamount to promising a girl that you will be her boyfriend after you rape her? or promising to bring someone to the hospital after you stab them?”

    I am not sure that is an accurate analogy. The situation would probably be best illustrated this way:

    SM needs to move 182 trees because they are in the way of mall expansion, which supposedly includes strengthening structures that prevent erosion. It applies for a permit from the DENR, which the DENR gives, presumably in line with its own rules.

    In exchange for being allowed to move the trees, SM promises to plant 50,000 saplings, etc.

    The problem with analogies is that they sometimes can simplify an issue too much. How can I, for example, argue in favor of rape?

    “When you kill a person, saying I’m sorry 274 times does not cancel out that fact that you killed someone. They will still be dead… ”

    That is correct.
    On the other hand, of the 182 trees that will be balled, many are saplings and are young enough to survive balling. Older pine trees do face a chance of dying but hopefully not all of them will.

    There are, I suppose, experts on each side of the earth-balling issue. DENR Sceretary Paje, who has a degree in forestry and experience in reforestration, has said earth balling is a valid activity. The balling has also been supervised by trained foresters, and we presume the transfer plan that SM submitted before being granted a permit was studied by the Forest Management Bureau.

    Look, we are not saying balling trees is good. It would be better for the trees to stay where they are, but SM says they need to move the trees. And so they came up with this transfer plan instead of just cutting down the trees.

    “Also— If by ‘SLACKTIVISM’ you are referring to those who choose to express their outrage and spread awareness via social media, *then you obviously do not understand how powerful a tool this can be.* Hey, how do you think I found a link to this post in the first place? To say that proliferating information via social media is in any way slacking-off is an unfair statement.

    It is precisely because we understand how powerful a tool social media can be that we wrote this post. Proliferating information is one thing, proliferating misinformation and general hate is another thing. The problem is a lot of people just say “SM is evil because it is cutting trees!” when 1. they are not cutting trees and 2. there are reasons behind the “cutting” of those trees. Are they valid reasons? That’s something to discuss. It’s a matter of context, isn’t it?

    The purpose was not to make you look like fools but to get people to look beyond catchphrases and cliches. Surely, it’s better to be able to say “I am against what SM is doing because [reasons]” and also say why they are doing it? Even if you don’t believe them or their promises, isn’t it better to have more information?

    More later. Had to type this during an early lunch break but will be back.

  37. Mr. Gio Bondoc, you said “Yeah,Protesters/oppositions against SM Baguio just poped-up! They never protested when they built SM in Baguio City.”

    Well, There had been Anti-SM protest then. And to tell you what, it had more protesters than that of any protest we ever had here in Baguio. I’ve been there too.

    Anyway, onetamad, I’m sure you’re a great guy. Very interesting points on the topic. (Have you been a member of the late BobongPinoy YG? If you were, I’m grateful to hear from you again.)

    I don’t really have a side on this topic. I live here in Baguio and I hate SM’s development plan. But, since they have the legal rights to the land (it’s their property), I don’t think we can do anything else. Sure, we can delay, but what else. And if we something does happen to reverse the current situation (prevention of the balling of trees), I’d be very happy. But while SM’s at it, I just want to wish that SM would make a legacy out of this. Make the parking space free. Make the whole complex locality-friendly. Provide more outreach programs. Cleaning projects. Tree-planting projects. Usage of paper bags instead of plastic. Contribute to the City’s Waste management program and the Baguio Burnham park project. Anything to earn the sacrifice of trees and the respect of the people in the locality. Not just sitting there and defending yourselves with your youtube videos and such.

  38. Makgano kaya ang binayad ng SM dito sa mga nagsulat nito noh? malaki din siguro?

    Making a well written argument in favor of SM and saying that you aren’t favoring them…. hmmmmm….

    Please, we aren’t idiots….

  39. It’s amazing how many people still don’t see the gravity with our environment. We’re not just living in the information age, but it’s dawning upon us an increasing awareness of our environment – we’re living in the ecological age.

    Some people praise SM for plating 200+ trees for every one killed. I find that amusing because:

    1. They had to kill in order to be praised for something good. Wouldn’t it be better they plant it right away? We’re still stuck in that utilitarian way of thinking that there has to be a benefit or a profit, regardless of the negative consequences we project. Regardless of whether SM’s Redevelopment Plan will push through, it still gives us the notion that ‘goodness’ can only come after benefits. I dare ask, what basic moral principle is there in this? Is this truly development?

    2. Corporations tend to make their own CSR or Corporate Social Responsibility arms, so as to, in a way, “give back” to the community. This may be SM’s CSR, but the thing is, in the grander scheme of things, is it really their way of “giving back” or just “giving back what they owe” or “trying to hide what they stole”?

    3. Planting does not equate to full-pledged growing trees. Baguio has already suffered enough. It’s a city for 25k, and the least we could do is not hamper the environment anymore. Yet what happened here: a parking lot in place of trees – is a disgusting act of looking away from reality.

    To those who really believe SM’s act is something good and beneficial, what if we do this same act to another place, say Luneta Park, in favor of making a free, public parking space for everyone. Or how about Puerto Princesa, or anywhere in the Phils. Last Frontier? What if we cut down the trees there in order to make a mall.

    Question your ideas of progress and development. We’ve been stuck in the 20th century idea and it is costing us the environment we leave our children.

    I honestly dare say that in place of the trees cut, in place of the supposed development plan (even if it pushes through), in place of a parking lot, this is definitely NOT development.

    We cannot leave behind this culture for our future. The Phils. is more than SMs and Fort Bonifacio’s or skyscrapers. We should appreciate our natural environment much much more.

  40. “Makgano kaya ang binayad ng SM dito sa mga nagsulat nito noh? malaki din siguro?

    Making a well written argument in favor of SM and saying that you aren’t favoring them…. hmmmmm….

    Please, we aren’t idiots….”

    No, Salumbadits. You definitely are an idiot if that’s the best thing you can come up with.

  41. I’m reading this blog’s very valid points and the reactions of the readers. No doubt, we’re all NOT LIKING SM for destroying Baguio (and Tagaytay) that we once knew but isn’t this the fault of the Local Government for allowing that kind of development in their city in the first place? Aren’t we barking up the wrong tree?

    So many residents in Katipunan area, Quezon City opposed when SM planned their SM Blue (or whatever it is called) to be erected there. Years ago, they protested Burgundy Plaza (by another developer) to be erected there. We understood it to be approved by the Quezon City government hence any protest against the developer would have been futile unless it was directed against the local government.

  42. Just picked this up from a facebook friend status…

    The Lies and More Lies of SM About Their Tree Massacre

    By Michael A. Bengwayan

    For the past days, some articles have been written obviously by people who are on the side of SM but ignorant about trees and can’t even tell the difference of what a live tree is from a dead one. Some disinformation have also been written about me and our head legal officer Atty. Cheryl Chyt L. Daytec Daytec. SM is desperate as it has lost so much goodwill as well as income and it will do everything–even to maximize lies and distort truths –just to get into your pockets. But the people of Baguio are wiser than all of SM. They see through the facade of SM’s pride parade, arrogance and greed.

    Allow me to let you see through the lies of SM’s so-called Green Expansion Garden in the Sky project. They say that their project is “certified by LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), the internationally recognized standard for green building design and construction developed by the US Green Building Council.”

    However, Jennivine Kwan, Vice President for International Operations of USGBC denied this claim. She said they have never certified any project of SM and do not intend to work with SM.

    LEEDS Philippines also said SM’s trumpeting of its so called Green Project is a case of Greenwashing, (Disinformation disseminated by an organization so as to present an environmentally responsible public image) and called on people to sign the petition against SM.

    And rightly so. Why? Because building a garden in the sky is only an artificial thing. There is no substitute to God-made woods, forest or natural gardens. An artificial Garden in the Sky has all the following disadvantages.

    First, when you put soil on top of a building and plant trees on it, you are negating the carbon sequestration capability of the trees. The carbon absorbed by the trees accumulate in the few feet of soil on top of the concrete roof and since the trees are not naturally connected to the earth, the amassed carbon dioxide volatilizes back to the atmosphere through the surface soil as there is no deeper ground for the COs to leach. Thus, instead carbon dioxide being trapped, it is released continually to the atmosphere causing harm and danger.

    Second, the natural capillary action of tree roots to raise water level to as high as 200 feet deep is totally removed because they are not in contact to the earth. With this, there will be more difficulty in water access.

    Third, oxygen release by trees is lessened because a disequilibrium in CO2-O2 exchange. More CO2 are released while the trees, which can never reach their growth potential in terms of height, density and sprawl, will have limited capability to create and to release oxygen.

    The problem is, SM wants to invent better what God has made. That is bullshit. There is no substitute to what God has made. Not even science can replace that.

    Is this so hard to understand?


  43. “I would rather not have a mall in Baguio City either. But it is there. Crass commercialization or not, I think SM knows it does affect the environment and is taking steps to at least mitigate the damage.”

    “Where the trees currently are, SM’s creating a stronger concrete structure to prevent erosion, and under that is a reservoir that can supposedly hold 6.9 million liters of water, or as much water as around 4,000 trees can soak up.”

    This is where i’m having trouble with pro-SM arguments (and there is a pro-SM spin to this article. Let’s not kid ourselves. Not saying it’s a sponsored post or any of the sort, but it tries to bolster SM’s position in a “i’m not defending them, i’m just assuming all their rabid haters are uninformed” way).

    The thing is, we can’t just shrug our shoulders and find a band-aid solution for the wounded earth. We’re protesting because we want to stop the injury from happening in the first place.

    Would there have been any need to create a structure to prevent erosion if the trees that were originally in the area were cut down to make room for the mall and the parking lot? Doubt it. SM is just trying to “mitigate the damage”, yes, but it’s the kind of damage they brought about in the first place. I think people tend to forget that.

    And yes, most of these re-greening plans being trumpeted by SM are nothing more than promises. And judging by the way they’ve already blatantly lied about the LEED certification, i’d say there’s an enormous chance of these promises vanishing into thin, polluted air.

  44. @via You are absolutely correct. SM would not have to earthball those trees to prevent erosion if they had never built a mall there in the first place. They would have no business doing so.

    Please see the next post. There’s something there about LEED certification etc.

  45. Look, if anyone read the article without nitpicking, to oppose is okay, just oppose with a right mind. Onetamad is not saying that opposing is stupid and just not conforming is idiotic, the guy said that it’s okay as long as you know what you’re doing. Don’t try to play the victim if his views oppose yours, or try to accuse the guy for saying he’s being the devil’s advocate, just be open minded about it and try to remove your sticks up your asses.

    I oppose SM’s plan because I already hate SM Baguio since it removed the very idea of going to the countryside and enjoying the easy life in the province with the mountain air. But to hate them without a reasonable cause is the same as thinking of being part of a mob.

  46. Great thread here.. I’m born and raised here in Baguio City (raised La Trnidad to be accurate) and I’ve seen the changes in the city for the last decade. In my opinion, opposing SM takes more than just protesting on the street and on social media.. This is just a cure to the symptom and not the disease.

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